In the recent years it has been possible to observe an increase in the number of families where more women earned more than 50% of the household income, and in countries like Slovenia and Ireland this concerned up to 40 and 30% of families respectively. Rates decrease considerably if we consider the number of households where women earn more than 60% of the total income but this has triggered some considerations and need for research on this trend and its roots.

These questions and the consequences of the increase of female breadwinner families will be explored in the next two years in the project #FemaleBWin, “Female Breadwinner Families in Europe”, led by the University of Southampton and funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council.

Initial research hypothesis explains the increase of female breadwinners by suggesting, on one hand, the increase of gender equality within the family in in the couple and, on the other hand, because of the economic recession where a higher number of men lost their employment compared to women.

First data analysis showed that the economic recession argument was realistic and indeed many women became first earners only after the loss of employment of their male partners, while couples where a more gender equal share of responsibilities are more likely to end being equal earners couples.

Further research will focus on the nature the status of women as breadwinners and whether with the closing of the economic recession, women will remain primary earners, return to second earners or move towards equal earners. Another question that will be developed is the prevalence of female breadwinners in certain social, ethnic or age cohort and whether this has an impact on mating patterns.

The project will also explore the implications for female breadwinners families, compared to male breadwinner one and equal earners, relating to the risk of couple dissolution, household and childcare time allocation and fertility outcomes and intention.

The project was launched in London on 8 March 2016, with a first brainstorming meeting of the Advisory Board. Paola Panzeri sits in the Board representing COFACE, together with other representatives of academia and civil society.

More about this project here